A Linguistic Analysis of Obama’s Inaugural Address

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Rhythm and Rhetoric: A Linguistic Analysis of Obama’s Inaugural Address

Liilia Batluk Supervisor: Stuart Foster School of Humanities Halmstad University Bachelor’s thesis in English


My appreciations to my supervisor Stuart Foster for very helpful advice during the research.

In this essay I shall analyze Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, January, 2009 from the perspective of various linguistic techniques. More specifically, I shall propose and focus on the idea that the composition of the speech has an aim to create a unity of the speaker and the audience in order to deliver the message. Moreover, the speaker maintains the atmosphere of unity throughout the speech, so that the speech produces an effect when the
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Having been skillfully coordinated, they create the


performance that aims the delivery of the message. I will focus on the structural and functional properties of the language, the combination of which enables the speaker to achieve the goal of the performance. In chapter 2, I will introduce the historical and cultural context in which the speech was made. Context is defined as “circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or an idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood” (Oxford Dictionary of English, context noun). Defining the term context as dynamic, Mey states that it “is about understanding what things are for; it is also what gives our utterance their true pragmatic meaning” (41). The context is vital for analysis of any speech, particularly made in public. I will draw attention to the historical, cultural and social circumstances during the election campaign, which preceded the Presidential address. In subchapter 2.1, the cultural and social background of Obama will be described. During a presidential campaign, any personal details of a candidate may be significant; they indicate the electors’ preferences and, possibly, expectations. A President’s address, in turn, is based on audience’s expectations. That is why, I think, this aspect should be taken into account while
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